Why a rock ‘n’ roll odyssey of West Hollywood should be your next trip away

One of the first things you’ll notice upon entering West Hollywood’s legendary Sunset Marquis hotel is the huge image of Lou Reed that looms large over the pool. On the chilly February evening when I arrive, it means that the iconic cover shot of Reed’s Transformer is silently looking down on any guests that have dared to take a dip in the brisk waters.

It’s a fittingly imposing motif for the luxury hotel, which boasts a musical history unlike no other in West Hollywood. The likes of Joe Strummer, Debbie Harry and Slash have all stayed there, and their portraits adorn the walls.

Part of its legacy lies in its basement: this is the home of Nightbird Studios, where Rihanna recorded ‘Stay’ back in 2012. No wonder the studios boast more than 50 Grammy Award-winning albums to their name.

A typical villa at the Sunset Marquis – prices start from $1000 a night
A typical villa at the Sunset Marquis – prices start from $1000 a night

Located just off the Sunset Strip, it’s the perfect place for music lovers to stay while taking in a district that might just be America’s true home of hard rock.

The Whisky A Go-Go, located mere minutes from the hotel, became the epicentre of the genre in the 80s and provided a key place for the likes of Mötley Crüe and Guns N’ Roses to cut their teeth. A stone’s throw away from there, the legendary Troubadour is where a bespectacled lad from Pinner called Elton John played his first-ever US show.

So, come with us, as we take a look at the must-visits and must-dos for music lovers in West Hollywood.


To put it simply: what former stage manager Jon D’Amico doesn’t know about the Sunset Strip isn’t worth knowing. And where he doesn’t go, isn’t worth going.

D’Amico — the former stage manager for the likes of Guns N’ Roses and Stone Temple Pilots
— is a brilliant guide to the rich and varied history of the area. We’re loath to reveal too many details, but just know that you’ll see the restaurant where Quentin Tarantino wrote large sections of Pulp Fiction, plus you might even stop for a drink at The Rainbow, where late Motörhead icon Lemmy propped up the bar most days.

Nick and Jon D’Amico (Picture: Rolling Stone UK)
Nick and Jon D’Amico (Picture: Rolling Stone UK)

Similarly, D’Amico will take you to a wide array of hidden gems that only locals would ever be able to tell you about, including the charming Mystery Pier Books, where deep-pocketed punters can pick up first editions of Dickens and Chandler, to name but two.

This whistle-stop tour is, in our opinion, the best way to take in the area’s vast and rich history
in one hugely entertaining and informative fell swoop.

From $59, book at rocknwalktours.com


If you’re staying at the Sunset Marquis, then the Cavatina is a must-visit. Set in the hotel’s idyllic outside area (but totally weatherproof too), this contemporary space is among the best spots to kick back and enjoy the West Hollywood highlife. Under the stewardship of chef Luis Morales, the Cavatina offers a mixture of high-end dishes and more casual offerings to suit every mood and appetite. Their Alta Loma Club Sandwich is a satisfying quick lunch bite, while dinner is defined by the luscious grilled blue prawns. If you’re feeling really decadent, enjoy a meal and cocktails by one of the hotel’s heated pools.


Since opening in 1964, the Whisky a Go Go has developed into the kind of place in music lore that any venue owner would strive for. From The Byrds to Buffalo Springfield, from AC/DC to Mötley Crüe, the Whisky is the kind of club where you’re wishing that the walls could speak and tell the secrets of all the iconic acts who have performed there.

The Whisky A-Go-Go (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment)
The Whisky A-Go-Go (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment)

These days, you can watch acts who are hoping to follow in the footsteps of those greats and carve their own place in Whisky history. We saw a bill of local and national rock talent including LA rockers Stonebreed and HXLA. With shows on nearly every night that start at under $20, it’s
the perfect way to contextualise and soak up the Whisky’s legendary history.

From $20, book at ticketmaster.com

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Just 20 minutes away from Sunset Boulevard, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opened in 2021 and boasts all the big screen history and artefacts that you’d reasonably expect from the institution that puts on the Oscars every single year. We’d be here all day if we were to list every single exhibit and, again, we’re loath to spoil the surprises that lie within.

But we will say that The Godfather exhibit – complete with the prop horses head from *that* harrowing scene is truly excellent. As is the array of costumes that covers everything from Mamma Mia to Midsomer. Oh, and for an extra $10, wannabe acting greats can live out their award-winning dreams in the interactive Oscars experience.

The Academy Museum
The Academy Museum

The on-site restaurant, Fanny’s (so named after Fanny Brice) is also a suitably high-end offering to end the glitzy trip.

It’s an engaging and essential visit for movie buffs and casual film lovers alike.

From $25, academymuseum.org


As The Roxy hits 50, this excellent exhibition is the perfect tribute to Lou Adler’s legendary venue. The Sunset Strip landmark is best known as the place that introduced America to the intoxicating world of the Rocky Horror Show, before hosting legendary gigs from the likes of Bob Marley, Adele and Guns N’ Roses.

On until June, this exhibition offers a comprehensive story of the venue’s storied 50-year legacy, original memorabilia and 60 photographs of the shows that really defined the legend of The Roxy.

(Picture: Gareth Cattermole/Handout/Getty Images)

From $18, book at grammymuseum.org


Located just minutes from the Sunset Marquis, this is an essential spot for anyone wishing to soak up a piece of quintessential US diner culture. Simply rock up, choose your own booth and chow down on one of the many burgers, sandwiches, soups, salads and sliders that are on offer. The tableside jukeboxes are a cute touch too, allowing diners to part with a quarter in order to choose the tunes that will blare out across the restaurant.

Mel’s Drive In (Picture: Press)
Mel’s Drive In (Picture: Press)

There is real history here too: it was previously known as Ben Frank’s, and the likes of Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol and Frank Zappa all stopped here for late- night eats. The restaurant’s youthful vibe also meant that TV executives put out a call for “spirited Ben Frank’s types” when it came to casting The Monkees back in 1965.


If you’re looking for a laugh, this legendary stand-up spot has got you sorted. This is where you can catch side-splitting sets from the comedy stars of tomorrow, as well as surprise unannounced sets from comedy giants. On the night we attended, SNL and Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones (pictured right) rocked up for an excellent hour- long set. Who knows who might just show up when you’re there?

The Comedy Store (Picture: Press)
The Comedy Store (Picture: Press)

From $20, book at thecomedystore.com

For more information on West Hollywood, go to VisitWestHollywood.com.